Quick Review: SUPERMAN UNCHAINED Deluxe Edition (DC Comics)

SupermanUnchained-DeluxeWriter: Scott Snyder | Artist: Jim Lee, Dustin Nguyen, Scott Williams

From the skies above Metropolis to the four corners of the globe to the star-streaked spaceways beyond, one man is synonymous with the word “hero.” Since his arrival marked the dawn of the superhero age, Superman has waged a never-ending battle for truth and justice, no matter when or where.

But before the dawn came the darkness. When another with incredible power, far more than that of mortal man, fell to the Earth. One who could spell the end for the Man of Steel.

Collects: Superman Unchained #1-9

This is a pretty good Superman story. As the name suggests, it’s off-the-hook, action-packed and large-scale. The stakes are high (global peril!), the action is huge, and the story stretches back to the 1940s. Superman is up against a group of techno-terrorists and a mysterious US military department that appears to have been manipulating events behind-the-scenes for years. Teaming up with a surprise ally, Superman must get to the bottom of the terrorists’ schemes, and negotiate a peace with the US military. Meanwhile, his friends and allies step up to help out as and when they can.

The writing is very good, the artwork is stunning, and the action comes fast and often. By offering no pretense as to what this story is meant to be, Scott et al can really go all out. There’s a lot of over-the-top action, presented in eye-catching, stunning artwork. It still manages to be less over-the-top than the Man of Steel movie, mind… If you have any interest in the character, then Superman Unchained should entertain.

Superman Unchained Deluxe Edition is published next week.

Yet Another Fantastic CONSTANTINE Cover (DC Comics)

Constantine-20-Art

It’s a series I’ve barely read, but damn does it get some great covers… The image above, by Juan Ferreyra, will be the cover for Constantine #20. The issue, due out on December 10th, is written by Ray Fawkes and art by Jeremy Haun. Here’s the mini-synopsis:

It’s hate at first sight when John Constantine meets his Earth 2 counterpart!

(Got to love a to-the-point synopsis…)

Batman, Vols. 4-5: Zero Year “Secret City” & “Dark City” (DC Comics)

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Writer: Scott Snyder | Art: Greg Capullo, Danny Miki, FCO Pascencia, Rafael Albuquerque

The New 52 origin of The Dark Knight delves into Bruce Wayne’s past with the Red Hood Gang and his run-ins with aspiring District Attorney Harvey Dent!

Before the Batcave and Robin, The Joker and the Batmobile, there was ZERO YEAR. The Riddler has plunged Gotham City into darkness. How will a young Dark Knight bring his beloved hometown from the brink of chaos and madness and back into the light?

Collects: Batman #21-24 (Vol.4); #25-27, 29-33 (Vol.5)

I’ve always had a soft-spot for origin stories, as I’m sure many fans do. In Zero Year, Snyder et al, have created a very good, more extensive and explanatory take on the origins of Gotham’s Dark Knight. Other stories and collections have touched up this period of Bruce’s development from spoiled rich kid to crime-fighting genius, but none have done it this well. If you haven’t been reading the New 52 Batman, then I’d strongly recommend you start – either here or at the beginning of Snyder’s run. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Volume 4 pretty much re-creates the background portion of Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke, but from Batman’s perspective, and with a little more focus on the wider actions of the Red Hood gang. Their fight against the new vigilante are relentless and bloody (Bruce is really put through the ringer, here). The story is very well-told, too. There are echoes with Nolan’s Dark Knight movie trilogy, but with shades of Fight Club and Gone in Sixty Seconds added in the back-up stories focused on Bruce’s overseas training stops.

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In Volume 5, things really get tricky for Batman and his new allies: the Riddler takes over the city (there is a strange leap forward in time, which wasn’t handled quite as smoothly or neatly as it could have been), and it is up to them to wrest control of the power grid and save the lives of their fellow Gothamites from the Riddler’s games. The story has an excellent flow to it, and there’s a nice, circular element to the narrative that takes us back to certain events in Volume 4. Snyder et al show us perhaps the most detailed account of the days leading up to the death of Bruce’s parents that I’ve ever seen. (Anyone know if it’s presented in greater detail anywhere else?) I really enjoyed this volume, made even better by the fact that it’s a pretty long book – not once did it feel like the story was dragging, and the creative team have done a wonderful job of making it visually and narratively engaging and attention-grabbing.

Across both books, and their back-ups, the artwork is fantastic – Capullo’s art is consistently brilliant, and the back-up artists (including Rafael Albuquerque, who has worked with Snyder on multiple other projects) offer welcome and refreshing alternatives. There really is nothing bad I can think of saying about the two books’ visuals – it’s all excellent. There were a couple of moments that were clearly meant to be homages to Frank Miller’s Batman work. First, there was this moment (thanks so the Mary Sue for putting together the image – I was reading the digital ARC, which has degraded artwork to prevent sharing, etc.)*:

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Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns (left) and the new image

And also this moment, which is another homage to a Dark Knight Returns cover (I put this one together):

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Snyder’s work on the Batman series continues to impress and entertain, and also expand the Batman mythology brilliantly. I’m concerned about the growing number of Batman titles, though, because I don’t want the story from each to become so cross-pollinated that you can’t properly follow any of them without reading all of them. So, please, just don’t go the way of Marvel?

In all? Batman continues to be very highly recommended. If you’re a fan of the character, you need to be reading Snyder et al’s series.

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Batman, Vol.4 – “Secret City” Contents

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Batman, Vol.5 – “Dark City” Contents

* That Mary Sure piece also has one other homage example, this time to the first appearance of Batman – also something I spotted, but I thought the Miller homages were far more striking, so decided to share them.

Another Cool CONSTANTINE Cover (DC New 52)

The New 52 Constantine series has been getting some really cool cover, lately. The piece that will grace the 17th issue – by Juan Ferreyra – is particularly cool, too, because it ties in with the centennial commemoration of World War I…

Constantine-17

The issue – published on this week – is written by Ray Fawkes, with art by Edgar Salazar and Jay Leisten, and colours by Richard and Tanya Horie. Here’s the synopsis:

John Constantine is no stranger to death, but he’s never seen it on this scale – a spell gone terribly wrong has sent him back through time to World War I! Unfortunately, he’s not the only mage in the trenches… and where death has this much power, black magic couldn’t be more dangerous!

You can check out a preview of the issue here.

Cover Art: Constantine #15 (DC New 52)

I haven’t been keeping up-to-date on single issues from any of DC Comics’ New 52 series for quite some time. I did, therefore, only just spot this piece, which graces the cover of Constantine #15. The artist is Juan E. Ferrevra. I particularly liked the silhouette effect.

Constantine-15-Art

The issue is written by Ray Fawkes, and internal artwork is by ACO, Richard and Tanya Horie.

Here’s the synopsis:

John Constantine witnesses the horrifying reach of magic when he meets the world’s wealthiest mage – a woman who’s been draining all the good luck out of her home city of Hong Kong and benefiting from the suffering of millions.

Quick Review: Batgirl, Vol.4 – “Wanted” (DC Comics)

Batgirl-Vol.4Series continues strongly into its fourth collection

Writer: Gail Simone, Marguerite Bennett (#25) | Artist: Fernando Pararin, Jonathan Glapion, Daniel Sampere (#20), Carlos Rodriguez (#20), Vicente Cifuentes (#20)

Batgirl struggles to continue fighting crime after being emotionally drained by the death of her brother, James, Jr. With her relationships with Batman and her father strained, Batgirl face one of Batman’s most ruthless villains, The Ventriloquist, alone.

Collects: Batgirl #19-26, Ventriliquist #1

Gail Simone’s run on Batgirl has been critically acclaimed from seemingly all quarters. As, actually, has most of her work. This was the first series written by her that I’ve tried, and it has been a favourite of the New 52 titles ever since. That being said, though, I’m not really sure how to write about it. So, I’ll keep this brief and to the point… It’s really good. Ok, that was a bit too brief…

Simone’s writing is excellent throughout. Not only has she crafted an engaging, unrushed overall narrative, but she’s also done a brilliant job of digging deep into what Barbara/Batgirl is going through. And, indeed, Simone really puts our heroine through a beating, physical and emotional. For example, there is the fallout (psychological and otherwise) resulting from the death of her brother; the tension between her and her father; the death of someone else close. And, of course, the baddies: in this book, the Ventriloquist is at the centre of Batgirl’s world, and she is damned creepy. Her origin story backs it up, too. Possibly one of the creepiest, non-cartoony DC villains I’ve read in a while. And a previous group of villains resurfaces, bringing with them an interesting example of franchising or outsourcing crime. I know that’s all a little bit vague, but Batgirl is subjected to a lot of trauma in this collection, and all of it is pretty momentous. It’ll be really interesting to see how Barbara’s story continues.

As for the artwork? It’s brilliant. Pasarin and Glapion do a wonderful job of realising Simone’s story, and also Bennett’s in the Gothtopia issue. The panels, full-pages are all clear, vibrantly coloured and yet still appropriately moody and atmospheric.

If you haven’t read this series, yet, I would strongly recommend it. Personally, I think it’s much better than Simone’s work on Red Sonja (but that may be a result of my general disappointment with that series as a whole).

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